I’ve always liked the idea of treating birthdays as a personal new year. Like a brand new spiral notebook at the start of school, with paper so crisp that the pages stick together, the immaculate cover carefully protecting the blank pages within. Every page, a possibility. At the end of the year, the cover will be dotted with doodles and declarations, its cardboard softened, familiar and worn from being scribbled in and tossed around day after day.
The notebook I’ve had on this last trip around the sun has seen better days. It’s a little beat up, a bit more battered and bruised than its predecessors. The notes inside make sense, mostly, although the overarching themes are slow to emerge. I know enough now to understand that the big aha’s take a year or two to sink in.
There’ve been a few instructions that aren’t really registering – reminiscent of ninth grade geometry. I detested that notebook so much that I lit it on fire at the end of the school year. Mom caught me before the whole thing went up in flames (I was in the driveway – what could have gone wrong?!) so I had to be satisfied with stomping on the charred pages before throwing it away. Good riddance.
This year has been one filled with new jobs, new partners, new homes, new additions. Not for me, though. I’m surrounded by friends who’ve checked off major life events – milestones I expected to have reached myself by now. The Big Lesson – it’s useless to compare myself/my situation/my journey with others – is tough for competitive Type-A overachievers like me. Particularly when said competitive Type-A overachiever hasn’t found a job in seven months, which jeopardizes her living situation, let alone her mental and emotional state.
As much as I idolize the shiny start-of-school notebook, I realize the real beauty is the end-of-the-year version, full of affirmations, inspirations, realizations and revelations. A manifesto of acquiescence; an anthology of illumination. I can’t stomp on this notebook. The cover is stained and the pages crumpled, but this jacked-up journal is more magnificent than its pristine self ever was. I feel fiercely protective of it – appreciative of the lessons and so grateful for the gems.
Gems like the enduring love, encouragement and support of my family and friends. Good health for those in my circle, and seeing two friends give cancer the smack down. Discovering yoga and Pilates. Long walks through Golden Gate Park to see the turtles of Stow Lake: sometimes solitary, sometimes with my sister, sometimes with a friend, or sometimes with Krista Tippett, Cheryl Strayed or Liz Gilbert. Everyone and everything conspired to take care of me this past year.
I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, even if it doesn’t feel particularly comfortable. I know that everything will be okay. That everything is okay.
Still, I open my new notebook with anticipation, full of hope that the coming year will be better.
No matter what: this time next year, I’ll treasure the result, in all its busted, flawless glory.
Every page, a possibility.